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Not In A Hurry To Recover Telecom Dues, Says Finance Minister

The government is in no hurry to recover revenue dues from struggling telecom firms as a panel of secretaries is looking into the companies’ demands for relief, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday.

The minister also said the government was working on bills seeking to raise the insurance cover on bank deposits from the existing Rs. 1 lakh, besides regulating multi-state cooperative banks. These bills will be introduced during the winter session of Parliament, starting Monday, she told reporters.

Sitharaman also dismissed concerns that the government’s welfare spending may get affected on account of a possible revenue shortfall amid the ongoing economic slowdown.

The finance minister said the government was aware that the telcos’ plea for relief on payment of dues should be addressed on an urgent basis, but added: “I do not think I should be hurrying into the account for (getting) any money from them.” She pointed out that the panel of secretaries is yet to take a final call on the matter.

Sitharaman said the government’s intention was to address every possible issue raised by any entity having serious concerns. “I want no company to shut their operations. I want everyone to be able to be up and running. I want the economy to flourish,” said the minister. “I wish all companies across sectors to be able to do their business, service their customers and flourish. With that approach, we have worked on what we can do.”

The winter session of Parliament is likely to see the introduction of a revised Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, which will provide an insurance cover on bank deposits of more than 1 lakh, but “a final call is yet to be taken on the amount”. The government is also making a course correction with respect to a ‘bail in’ clause in the previous version of the bill, which had raised concerns about the security of deposit holders’ funds in the event of a financial institution’s failure.

An amendment will also be proposed to the Banking Regulation Act to give the Reserve Bank of India greater regulatory oversight. It assumes significance in the wake of the scam in the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank, which has severely affected customers.

Sitharaman said that she is scheduled to take stock of the liquidity situation among non-bank lenders next week.

Quoting from her interactions with industry executives, she said that a few companies were planning major investments after the corporate tax cuts announced in September.

However, Sitharaman yet again refuted criticism that the November 2016 high-value currency ban had triggered the current economic slowdown. “Demonetization was for sucking out the black money and to formalize the economy. We have to a large extent achieved the objective of demonetization,” she added.―Livemint

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